Would you dare drive a 30 year old car with only 157 km on the odometer? This Lancia Trevi VX (registered in 1985) is for sale.
Every now and then a museum-quality rarity shows up. This has to be the oddest I’ve seen in the last few years. Beating an unused 1975 Peugeot 604 (delivery miles) and an 8,000 km 1983 Ford Granada we have this delivery-miles 1984 Lancia Trevi VX, registered in 1985. It’s for sale at mobile.de and if you want to see it, you’ll need to take a trip to Bavaria and head northwest to Affing-Mühlhausen, a town noted mostly for its association with the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918. You can stay in the Hotel Ludwigshof and make a trip of it.
Back to the car. This is no ordinary 30 year-old timewarp specimen. If you go looking you’ll probably find most cars are represented to some extent by very high quality examples. But I very much doubt there is a single other unused Trevi with the Volumex supercharged engine outside the Lancia Museum (if there is still is such a museum). Only about 4000 Trevi VX’s were made. That’s what makes this car so special. It’s a dealer’s car (with plastic wrapping still in the footwell) and was fully maintained. That’s odd enough. But the car chosen was also a peculiar variant of an already rare vehicle.
As it happens, a tatty copy of Autocar (September 1982) has turned up, complete with a review of the Volumex version of the Trevi. Thus I can share some of the insight that Autocar’s eminent John Miles served up in his article.
“When Lancia opted to supercharge mechanically rather than to turbocharge to increase the performance of the Trevi, it was by no means for the sake of innovation. There was considerable supercharging experience within Fiat/Lancia to draw on, but it was not until recently that the improved mechanical and pumping efficiency resulting from closer production tolerances allowed Lancia to get the sort of moderate increase in performance they were looking for without – they say – any real sacrifice in economy…”
That last bit is misleading as it was generally recognised the VX did like to burn more petrol, typically at 20-22 miles per gallon compared to the normally aspirated cars (24 mpg).
The reason Lancia wanted to supercharge the Trevi lay in that system’s ability to free low-down torque and faster responses than turbos can yield. I suppose this character gives the impression of a bigger capacity engine rather that of a powerplant that is having its neck wrung in bursts. Additionally, supercharging doesn’t produce the same sort of problems with waste heat as turbos. And finally, the system doesn’t need fuel injection since the contra-rotating lobes of the Roots-type blower further stir up the blend after the carbs spit it out.
Autocar viewed the installation as being very neat. The cut-away diagram in the magazine shows a hippodrome-shaped block sitting in front of the engine block. Air is sucked in through the intake, it swirls down through the twin (!) Weber carburettors to be mixed with fuel, and is then sent forward through the blower unit before being spat into the cylinders for combustion. All of this happens in the blink of an eye, apparently.
The system drags 3 bhp off the engine’s output, oddly.
The list of modifications to the engine is long but the VX unit was used on some other Lancias, namely the HPE as well. That means they had a chance to amortise the cost. Lancia uprated the Trevi’s clutch and they raised the gearing so that in fifth the car is doing 22.8 mph per 1000 RPM in fifth.
Peak power was raised to 135 bhp and torque went from 129 lb ft to 152 lb ft. As Archie Vicar noted, this was a car for the hills of the Piedmont and the Graubunden. The effect of all of this was to make the car “an understated, refined and effective higher performance version of the Trevi, to compete with the Saab Turbo and 3 or 5 series BMW.” One can only look back jealously at the drivers of the time who had three such very different styles of motor to choose from.
Miles’ article noted that the Bellini dashboard had not been changed (why would they, as the model was killed off 18 months later?). Door-pockets and footwell bins solved the debris-and-stuff problem and the rear seats received some attention to carve out some kneeroom. Earlier versions lacked much by way of storage, as period reviews noted.
How did the car drive? Autocar said the performance increase was moderate but the suspension got a bit stiffer anyway. All those modifications led Autocar to describe the Trevi VX as “pleasantly flexible” and having a “responsive engine” with a quieter and smoother engine sound. The main change was as intended, more pull on part throttle rather than a higher top speed.
Autocar didn’t rate it as being anything special on motorways but said it was nice to use around town when the low-end torque allowed effortless trickling in slow traffic and, on country roads when you need to zip past a truck or tractor. In the end, they called it an “affable” motor.
If all that intrigues you then try contacting Automobile Lopp in Afffing-Mühlhausen and arrange a test drive to see how 1983 really was. You’ll need €18,000 to take the car away.
What I can’t answer now is how much of that €18,000 you’d lose driving the car for a year and then reselling it. Would the price drop by a half? As it stands, good Trevis with 60-80,000 km are on sale for about €4000-€5000. Would 12,000 km of 1983 motoring rub out €9,000 of that price or just a two or three thousand? As a long-time Trevi afficionado, I can only wonder.